By Monidipa Dey
Alwar, a picturesque town in the state of Rajasthan, once belonged to the ancient Matsya mahajanapada that had it’s capital at Viratnagar, now known as Bairat. The Meena the tribal community were the first to settle in Alwar and they built a mud fort here, parts of which can be seen scattered in the low-lying hills around and below the current Alwar fort.
Sometime in the 14th century, Raja Nahar Khan of Khanzada Rajput dynasty (Mewat State) captured Alwar from the Nikumba Rajputs. Later the Khanzada Mewatis lost their kingdom to Babar in the Battle of Khanwa. Alwar was taken from the Mughals by the Bharatpur Jats, and in 1770 the area finally saw stability when it came under the rule of the Kachwaha Rajputs. The princely state of Alwar, as was known until independence, was established in 1770 by a Kachwaha ruler Pratap Singh.
A major attraction in Alwar city had always been the City Palace or Vinay Vilas, which was built by Raja Bakhtawar Singh in 1793. However, the Palace now houses a district administrative office and is out of bounds for the tourists, even though one can always admire the beautiful building from outside. The topmost floor of the palace is also open for tourists and houses a museum. There are three sections in this museum and the first section has various toys and royal dresses, while the second section showcases paintings, and the third one holds weapons that belonged to the different Mughal kings.
Right beside the City Palace stands the Moosi Rani Ki Chhatri and the Sagar Kund. The double stoyered marble-sandstone memorial that is known as the Moosi Rani ki Chhatri, was built in 1815 by Raja Vinay Singh in memory of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh and his queen Rani Moosi. The monument is hemmed in on all sides by the Aravalli hills and is a beautiful structure. The ground floor has many pillars and petalled arches and is made of red sandstone, while the upper pavilion is made of white marble. The chattri ceiling has beautiful frescoes and paintings that depict various stories from our epics.
The upper marble pavilion has been built as the memorial for Rani Moosi, while the lower red sandstone part is for the king. The chattri terrace offers a pretty view of the city houses and hills around, and one can see the fort walls of the Bala Qila (Alwar fort) on the hill straight ahead.
Next to the Moosi Rani ki Chattri is a kund or tank that has steps leading down to the water on all sides. This tank which was also built in 1815 by Raja Vinay Singh, holds green mossy waters and has gaily painted Havelis with pretty Bangla chalas on one side. The storeyed and domed red sandstone chattris that surround the Sagar Kund on all sides make for a calm shady place to rest and while away some leisure time. Such tanks and baolis were once a common sight across many parts of India, and they served as common water reservoirs for the villagers and were also places for community gatherings.
The Moosi Rani ki Chattri and its adjoining Sagar Kund are wonderful heritage monuments and could easily be made into popular tourist spots; however, the place looks derelict and could certainly do with a little more conservation and maintenance.
Travels tips: Best time to visit Alwar is between November to March/early April, when it is cooler. The place is also beautiful during the monsoons. Alwar is well connected with Delhi /NCR via road and is just around 4-5-hour drive by a car. Trains are also available from Jaipur or Delhi for those interested in a train journey. The closest airport is Sanganer airport in Jaipur, which is 150 km from Alwar.
(The author is a well-known travel writer. All images provided by the author. Views expressed are personal.)